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Personality Fit A New Approach to Recruiting

August 1, 1999
Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Featured Article
Energetic. Resourceful. Imaginative. If these were the three most important qualities you were looking for in your next candidate, wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to unearth those capabilities before you cold-called the person from a stack of Internet résumés?

Here’s the problem: Few résumés, especially ones you download from the Internet, tell you much about a candidate’s personality. Usually, you get a list of skills and an inkling of a person’s experiences. But more often than not, résumés aren’t going to tell you everything you’d like to know before you decide to bring the people in for an interview. An important key to successful job fit is often first having a complete understanding of who a person is, not just what they’ve done.

One Internet recruiting service is attempting to help take this approach. DiscoverMe bills itself as the only personality-based job placement service on the Internet available to both job seekers and Fortune 1000 companies. "If DiscoverMe isn’t the only personality-based job Web site, it’s one of the very first," says Gerry Crispin, co-author of CareerXRoads (MMCGroup, 1998), an annual directory of career-management Web sites. "Personality assessment has been around for many years, but being able to do this on the Net, in real time, is obviously the next generation."

DiscoverMe’s allure to candidates is that it’s free. After registering on DiscoverMe’s site, individuals complete information such as location preference, skills and work experience, then go on to complete the personality assessment tool online (which takes about an hour to complete). When they’re done, they get a one-page, personality summary and can be contacted later for jobs if they match the profile of a job opening from a DiscoverMe client-employer. When candidates’ profiles match jobs, they receive an e-mail. If they like the job description, salary and location, they can approve their registration information, which is then shared with the client. If they aren’t interested, they decline the match and the process is terminated.

DiscoverMe’s allure to employers is that it’s an Internet-based sourcing tool that gives them more insight into candidates’ personalities before spending valuable interview time. And it costs about the same or less than using a headhunter or a recruitment agency. Client companies that sign up with DiscoverMe identify which positions they’re interested in listing with the service. They then develop a "role profile" for each job, which is all the information on that particular position, including the job description, salary, location, requirements and a top-performer personality profile. This is a composite of all the personality profiles for a given role. "It’s strictly an empirical analysis, taking the personalities of people in the job that are doing well, and finding more candidates with the same type of personality and the same differentiating characteristics," explains Carol Rudder, founder and CEO of DiscoverMe, based in Prairie Village, Kansas.

Sourcing candidates through DiscoverMe.
Only last October did the recruiters in Abbott Laboratories’ diagnostics division, part of the firm’s commercial operations, begin their foray into the Internet recruiting arena. They started posting jobs on the company’s Web site, and began looking for people through other Internet recruitment sites, including a number of minority recruitment sites.

Based in Abbott Park, Illinois, the division’s recruiters also decided to try the DiscoverMe approach, particularly as another recruitment source for its hardest-to-fill, and hardest-to-keep, position: sales rep. "It’s the job that we have the most turnover in," explains Nancy Baker-Buckman, manager of USO human resources for Abbott Laboratories. "It’s something we’re always sourcing for, so we felt DiscoverMe would be a good tool to try in finding candidates."

But they had never used a personality-based assessment tool as a specific selection criteria. "We’ve done assessments in the past to develop a selection process which includes skill sets, qualifications and other intangibles like leadership ability, aggressiveness or where someone was on the introvert-extrovert scale," says Laura Hennessey, USO staff recruiter at Abbott Laboratories’ diagnostics division. "What interested us most about DiscoverMe is that it would give us those intangible types of things that a person would possess, which would give us a start in our selection of qualified candidates."

In working with DiscoverMe, Abbott’s recruitment team’s first step was to decide who should be part of the top-performer profile. "We actually had 30 of our top sales reps take the DiscoverMe assessment to create our successful sales rep profile," Baker-Buckman explains.

"What we’re trying to do is find people who are going to be happy in the job, because we can find people who have the right qualifications and the right skill sets, but they personally wouldn’t be happy working for Abbott in a sales role," Hennessey explains. "But if we could get both—meaning we could find the person that meets the role profile and has the qualifications and the skill sets necessary to be successful—that would be ideal."

So far, Hennessey has interviewed approximately 10 people who were referred by DiscoverMe. She has referred several of the candidates out to specific hiring managers, though none of them have been hired by Abbott yet. Hennessey says she’s been impressed by the quality of the referrals she’s gotten from DiscoverMe. "A high percentage of those candidates—80 to 90 percent of those individuals—had all the intangibles I felt necessary to be successful at Abbott," says Hennessey. Still, she’s talking with DiscoverMe about adding another dimension to the process to find candidates with an even better fit with her company. She wants to narrow down the experience level to more specific criteria, such as having at least two years’ experience in health-care sales. "I think it’s a great tool, but now I’m trying to get individuals with that other piece, the experiences and skills necessary to make a complete composite," Hennessey adds.

Personality profiling has drawbacks and advantages.
Personality testing has been used in the employment arena for years. Some human resources professionals embrace it, others don’t. And though these tests can be useful, companies need to be aware of the risks involved in using them to predict future employee behavior on the job. You might be exposing your firm to lawsuits or other legal problems if you use any personality-profiling tool that isn’t validated or thoroughly tested.

There are lots of new online recruitment services to investigate, but HR managers who are considering any use of these services should carefully consider how they might benefit their recruitment efforts. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s better. However, if an Internet service can exploit the speed and resources of the Web and bring you a better product, then it may just be another answer to your sourcing problems—especially in today’s tight labor market.

Workforce, August 1999, Vol. 78, No. 8, pp. 89-91.

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